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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lies about "Bush lied" on: March 21, 2015, 06:32:59 AM
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney vaporized his Governor emails on: March 21, 2015, 06:31:50 AM
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Electricity on: March 21, 2015, 05:04:37 AM
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption, Skullduggery, and Treason on: March 20, 2015, 10:41:30 PM
Better for the Rule of Law thread.
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Daughter of two lesbians says on: March 20, 2015, 07:39:37 PM
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Goldberg on: March 20, 2015, 02:31:10 PM

Proselytizers of atheism seem to have concluded that if they’re big enough jerks,
they will seduce the faithful into abandoning God. It’s sort of like asking Don
Rickles to run your customer-service desk. Christopher Hitchens was a friend, but
when he talked about religion, he could be -- to use a technical term -- a Grade-A
Schmuck. Likewise, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the other champions of a
soulless, antiseptic world have all the charm of a toothache when they lecture
people to kick the habit of the opiate of the masses. And then there are their shock
troops. When pastor Rick Warren’s depressed son committed suicide recently, an army
of the unfaithful took to Twitter to assure the grief-stricken father that there was
no heaven, God was a myth, and his son was gone forever. When USA Today wrote about
the mind-bogglingly hateful attacks, one commenter on that article counseled that
Warren should “abandon primitive superstitions and accept the universe for what it
is -- a place that is utterly indifferent to us.”

One reason the atheistic horde has grown so aggressive and nasty is that they feel
the wind at their backs. The pews are emptying and science is declaring, more and
more loudly, that it has Figured Everything Out. Another reason is that
conservatives, mostly conservative Christians, have been pretty much the only ones
fighting back.

Perhaps just in time, some allies seem to be walking onto the field. Thomas Nagel --
no Christian conservative -- recently published Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist
Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. It generated an
enormous controversy because the (once) respected philosopher has come to the
conclusion that boiling all life, all existence, down to a bunch of atoms and
molecules bumping around doesn’t make much sense. He doesn’t come right out and
embrace God or anything wacky like that. But he says there’s just got to be
something more to things than what the materialists can measure and quantify.
Predictably, the discrediting has begun. Expect Nagel to be paraded around in a
dunce cap any day now.

Another quasi ally is Jonathan Haidt, the psychologist who studies, among other
things, how political attitudes are formed and who has come to the apparently
controversial conclusion that conservatives are not crazy. Indeed, Haidt argues that
conservatives tend to be more morally sophisticated than liberals, in part because
we are better at understanding the liberals’ position than liberals are at
understanding ours.

The latest entrant to the fray, and probably an unwitting one, is Frans de Waal, the
world’s foremost primatologist and a heavyweight in the neo-Darwinist camp. A big
chunk of his new book, The Bonobo and the Atheist: The Search for Humanism Among the
Primates, is aimed at telling the atheists to chill out.

“What good,” de Waal asks, “could possibly come from insulting the many people who
find value in religion?” While a nonbeliever himself, he respects people of faith
and is quite simply bored by efforts to disprove the existence of God. (Imagine how
bored God is.) He rejects the importance of the question posed by Nietzsche, “Is man
only a blunder of God? Or is God only a blunder of man?” If forced to choose, de
Waal would answer yes to the latter. But he thinks little will be gained by forcing
everyone to accept that God is dead.

The way to cut through the knot, according to de Waal, is to accept that morality
originates from within. De Waal persuasively argues that morality is part of our
factory-installed software. In the chicken-or-egg argument about which comes first,
morality or religion, de Waal argues it is morality by a mile. It entered our
genetic software “at least a hundred millennia” before anything recognizable as
modern religion manifested itself (though I’m not sure how he knows what religion
looked like 100,000 years ago). He believes his findings refute what he calls
“veneer theory” -- the idea that morality is simply a thin overlay of words and laws
that we need to keep us from doing terrible things. As Ivan Karamazov says, “If
there is no God, everything is permitted.”

And here we have something of a problem, and I think it would be helpful for
conservatives and perhaps our newfound allies to flesh it out a bit . . .
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 20, 2015, 02:28:18 PM
As plausible as it is bold.
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: March 20, 2015, 02:07:28 PM
Kasich is a very good man and I concur on the depth and quality of his congressional experience with regard to budget issues.

That said, intuitively I do not see him resonating well with many major voting blocks or exciting much passion.  The case for him would perforce be rather wonky.

209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Dr. Ben Carson on: March 20, 2015, 02:04:01 PM
The list of moments like this for Carson is lengthening , , ,

IMHO he should be leading with his forte-- his knowledge of health care, his critique of Obamacare, and his solutions.  It is what first brought him to the WSJ editorial page's attention with his performance at the National Prayer Breakfast.
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did Foregin Govts buy influence w Hillary? on: March 20, 2015, 01:05:18 PM
Did Foreign Governments Buy Influence With Hillary?

Hillary Clinton may be too mired in international connections to be an
unbiased president -- or hold any other public office for that matter. While
the Clintons couldn't accept donations from foreign governments to the Clinton
Foundation ( while Hillary was secretary
of state, it didn't stop politicians in high positions in the Ukrainian,
Chinese and Saudi Arabian governments from giving millions. The Wall Street

reports, "All told, more than a dozen foreign individuals and their
foundations and companies were large donors to the Clinton Foundation in the
years after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, collectively
giving between $34 million and $68 million, foundation records show. Some
donors also provided funding directly to charitable projects sponsored by the
foundation, valued by the organization at $60 million." While every donor WSJ
spoke with claimed they were only giving to a charity they believed in, they
also had the potential to buy Clinton's attention. The Clintons certainly know
how to play this shadowy political game, as Hillary just happened to stall on
disclosing the donors

to her charity.
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Mobs are cankerous sores on: March 20, 2015, 12:58:34 PM

"The mobs of the great cities add just so much to the support of pure
government as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners
and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in
these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution."
--Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query XIX, 1782
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / God, Reason, and our Civilizational Crisis on: March 20, 2015, 12:50:00 PM
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ben Franklin on Obama on: March 18, 2015, 04:07:02 PM
“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” --Benjamin Franklin (1758)
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill and Hillary made nearly $20M from UAE on: March 18, 2015, 11:45:54 AM
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Goldberg on the Letter of the 47 on: March 18, 2015, 07:01:58 AM
 It has been an Iranian tradition since 1979 to end Friday prayers with chants of "Death to America!"

In a purely rational world, that would be all one needed to know that Iran is not a reliable negotiating partner. Alas, we do not live in such a world. But there's more evidence. Iran, according to our State Department, has been the chief exporter of terrorism for the last three decades. It has worked closely with al-Qaida, facilitating its attacks on America and our allies. Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers traveled through Iran with the help of the Iranian government. U.S. judges have ruled that Iran was an accomplice in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and the Sept. 11 attacks. During the Iraq war, Iran was responsible for numerous American deaths.

And it's not like any of this is ancient history. Indeed, in 2012, the Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security as a major promoter of terrorism and violator of human rights.

Right now, via its brutal proxies, Iran is manipulating events on the ground in four Arab capitals -- Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa. Whatever success there has been against the Islamic State in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit has been thanks to Iranian advisors operating in Iraq and the Shiite Muslim militias they control. On Sunday's "Meet the Press," retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he fears Iran more than Islamic State.

So, obviously, the greatest villain in the world today is ... Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). He led the effort to get 46 other senators to sign a letter to the Iranian government explaining that any deal with Iran would require congressional approval.

The New York Daily News branded them all "TRAITORS" on its front page. Isn't it amazing how even vaguely questioning the patriotism of liberals is an outrage beyond the borders of acceptable debate, but branding 47 GOP senators "traitors" is treated as at least forgivable bombast? Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton told the Washington Post they aren't traitors, they're merely "mutinous," revealing Eaton's shocking ignorance of our constitutional structure. Yes, Obama is the commander in chief of the armed forces, but he is not the commander in chief of the co-equal legislative branch.

Petitions are circling to have the senators carted off to jail under the Logan Act -- which bars unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments -- a ridiculously antiquated law that would never survive Supreme Court scrutiny today.

Moreover, if the Logan Act were taken seriously, many of the lions of the Democratic Party, including Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Nancy Pelosi and Robert Byrd, would have ended their careers behind bars. Why, John Kerry -- who recently denounced the Cotton letter as "unconstitutional" -- could show Cotton around the federal penitentiary, given Kerry's egregious meddling in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration.

Now, I should say that I think the senators made a mistake. They should have written an open letter to President Obama. The Iranians would still have gotten the message, but the White House and the punditocracy would have found it more difficult to rationalize their insane hissy fit. And contrary to countless outlets reporting that the Republicans "sent" this letter to the ayatollahs, they didn't send it anywhere. It was posted on Cotton's website.

The more important point here is that no one disagrees with the content of the letter because it is accurate. The White House had to admit that Cotton was right; the deal as it stands would be a "nonbinding" agreement. And, therefore, as the letter explains, "The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen."

(In fact, Obama did pretty much exactly that with an agreement struck between Israel and the United States about settlement growth in Palestinian territories.)

This premature admission is politically inconvenient for the Obama administration because it wants to get the United Nations to approve the deal, making it a fait accompli. It hoped to get to that point without anyone noticing.

The Cotton letter is not mutinous or traitorous or unconstitutional. It is inconvenient, and apparently being inconvenient in the age of Obama is all it takes to be called unpatriotic.
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dr. Ben Carson on Net Neurtrality on: March 18, 2015, 06:58:43 AM
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sanctions on: March 18, 2015, 06:54:13 AM
BRUSSELS—A political deal is emerging within the European Union that could help the bloc navigate its divisions on policy toward Russia, by delaying an immediate decision on extending economic sanctions against Moscow, according to people involved in discussions.

The arrangement would also clearly link an easing of sanctions explicitly to the full and final implementation of the Ukraine cease-fire accord signed in Minsk, Belarus, last month, the people said.

The understanding, crafted in talks in Brussels, Paris and Berlin in recent days, aims to create a broad consensus at an EU leaders summit this week that when heads of government meet again in June or July, they would likely extend the economic sanctions on Russia through at least the rest of 2015.

EU governments are still working on the exact language leaders will use in a statement they will issue after this week’s summit.

After European affairs ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday, Edgars Rinkevics, foreign minister of Latvia said he doesn’t believe “there is going to be...any decisions” on sanctions this week. Latvia holds the rotating EU presidency,

According to several people involved in the talks, there is now what one diplomat called a clear “political understanding” that there will be no decision to renew sanctions this week. However, the leaders’ statement is expected to say sanctions will be tied to Russia fully implementing its Minsk obligations, which include the crucial step of handing back control of the Ukrainian border at the end of 2015.

Extending the sanctions would be “more or less a formality” at the next EU leaders summit, said a second senior official involved in discussions. The emerging political deal would “get the issue out of the way for now.”

The EU has imposed a series of sanctions on Russia since March 2014, when Moscow annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Russia denies western accusations that it has supplied and supported separatist forces in eastern Ukraine that battled Ukraine’s army for most of the past year.

The EU already has extended until September 15 targeted sanctions on Russian and separatist individuals and entities whose actions were deemed to have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty. EU leaders have said sanctions would be stepped up if the situation in eastern Ukraine deteriorates.

With the cease-fire largely holding, however, divisions have been emerging within the EU about when and whether to roll over the bloc’s toughest response to the crisis: major economic restrictions on energy, banking and defense ties with Russia imposed last summer and which expire in July.

Speaking on Monday after meeting in Berlin with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said pressure on Russia shouldn’t be lifted until Moscow has fully implemented the Minsk agreement. “The sanctions and the implementation of the Minsk plan must be connected,” she said.

However at a meeting in Brussels that same afternoon, EU foreign ministers again exposed their rifts on what is best to do. The Austrian and Spanish foreign ministers were among those warning the bloc should take no step at this point to ratchet up pressure, saying that would send the wrong signal at a critical moment in the cease-fire.

“There is no need to decide now on Russia sanctions--they are still ongoing until summer,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. “Sanctions are a means of pressure, not a goal as such. Extension of sanctions depends on the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine.”

Others pressed the bloc to give a clear signal that economic sanctions would stay in effect well past July. “I hope we can have a clear political commitment to maintaining sanctions until Minsk is implemented in its entirety,” said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. “It’s important to send a signal to the Russians that we are united, we are determined and that they have to deliver on their commitment.”

The U.S. has signaled it will keep its sanctions in place for the foreseeable future.

Since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, the EU has struggled to maintain unity and divisions have become increasingly transparent in recent months.

Governments in Hungary, Slovakia and Greece have criticized the effectiveness of the restrictions to secure a political solution in Ukraine while others, like Italy, Spain and Cyprus have been tentative about the measures. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Budapest last month. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Mr. Putin in Moscow in early March, and Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to see the Russian president in Moscow early April.

Other countries such as Poland, those in the Baltic and the U.K. have frequently vented frustration that the EU hasn’t reacted more resolutely to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish premier, said in January that what he termed as the West’s “appeasement” of Moscow “encouraged the aggressor to greater acts of violence.”

The economic sanctions issue still has the potential to crack open the unity that the bloc has managed to sustain so far. To renew the measures beyond July, the bloc needs the approval of all 28 member states. Greece’s government, which is entangled in a conflict with its fellow eurozone members over its economic plans, has said it won’t give up its right to veto any EU decision that threatens its national interests.

However, the EU has time and again swung behind a consensus led by France and Germany—the two countries that helped broker the Minsk agreement along with Ukraine and Russia. Diplomats say that while Paris was wary of German talk about extending the sanctions in recent weeks, the two are now agreed that delaying any immediate decision on sanctions in exchange for an understanding that the pressure will remain beyond July is a policy that can keep the bloc united.

Write to Laurence Norman at
Popular on WSJ

218  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: March 18, 2015, 06:46:27 AM
On March 14th Dolph Lundgren was doing a photo shoot at the gym yesterday. I'm gym buddies with his stunt double Tony and so after the shoot was over he and I got to talking a bit. Very nice guy! He said he had heard of the Dog Brothers and asked me to let him know when our next event was and then suggested that his wife take a photo. I got us a pair of sticks and he asked how to best stand with it.

He looked at the first photo and was not satisfied. "Let's take another with you closer to the camera so you will look bigger."

Above you see the two pictures.
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And here is the WSJ's report on: March 18, 2015, 06:33:12 AM
Third post

Joshua Mitnick
Updated March 18, 2015 6:08 a.m. ET

TEL AVIV—Benjamin Netanyahu has won a fourth term as Israel’s prime minister, with his right-wing Likud party seizing a decisive five-seat advantage in parliament over the main opposition Zionist Union party.

With 99% of the ballots counted, Likud is slated to control 29 of parliament’s 120 seats to 24 for Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, Israel Radio reported early Wednesday.

That advantage means Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier after David Ben-Gurion, will have little difficulty in forming a majority coalition based on right-wing nationalist and religious parties.

After declaring victory “against all odds’’ before a crowd of ecstatic Likud activists shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu promised to form a government swiftly.

In a statement later Wednesday morning, he said he had already spoken by telephone with leaders of right-wing and religious parties that won seats in parliament, as well as Moshe Kahlon, leader of the centrist Kulanu party and a former Likud member.

Mr. Herzog conceded the election in a phone call to Mr. Netanyahu, telling reporters Wednesday morning that he had congratulated the prime minister on his victory. “I wished him success,” he said.

Leader of the Labor Party, Mr. Herzog in December joined Tzipi Livni and her Hatnua party in forming a joint slate, Zionist Union, to unseat Mr. Netanyahu. He said his party’s showing was “a wonderful achievement” and vowed to pursue a coalition that “closes social gaps…a party that will seek peace with our neighbors.”

Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political scientist at IDC Herzliya, an Israeli university, said the vote could pave the way for a government far more right-wing than Mr. Netanyahu’s current one. That would give Mr. Netanyahu greater latitude to resist the U.S. and Europe and their calls for peace talks with the Palestinians and a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The outcome of Tuesday’s vote differed sharply with exit polls released by Israeli news channels after voting stations closed. Those surveys showed Mr. Herzog and Mr. Netanyahu in a virtual tie.

In the waning days of the three-month campaign, voter surveys showed Likud trailing Zionist Union by four seats. But while support for Mr. Herzog’s liberal-left coalition remained steady, backing for Likud surged, apparently as a result of Mr. Netanyahu’s last-minute campaign push to secure right-wing votes.

Mr. Netanyahu renounced his previous support for a Palestinian state, declared there was a well-funded foreign conspiracy to topple him and voiced alarm that a large turnout by Israeli Arab voters could determine the outcome of the election.

He warned that Mr. Herzog would give up territory to the Palestinians, who seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

“We have a different approach,” Mr. Netanyahu said Tuesday. “They [Zionist Union] want to withdraw. I don’t want to withdraw. If I put together the government, it will be a nationalist government.”

During the campaign, Mr. Herzog accused the prime minister of neglecting Israel’s economy. Besides reducing the gap between rich and poor Israelis, he said he would revive peace efforts with the Palestinians and repair relations with the Obama administration, which have frayed because of differences over nuclear negotiations with Iran and peace talks with the Palestinians.

“Whoever wants to follow Bibi’s path of despair and disappointment will vote for him,” Mr. Herzog said after casting his vote on Tuesday, referring to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname. “But whoever wants change, hope, and really a better future for Israel, will vote the Zionist Camp led by me.”

Write to Joshua Mitnick at
Popular on WSJ

220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / With typical digs worked in, POTH reports Netanyahu's win on: March 18, 2015, 06:28:22 AM
second post

TEL AVIV — After a bruising campaign focused on his failings, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel won a clear victory in Tuesday’s elections and seemed all but certain to form a new government and serve a fourth term, though he offended many voters and alienated allies in the process.

With 99.5 percent of the ballots counted, the YNet news site reported Wednesday morning that Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party had captured 29 or 30 of the 120 seats in Parliament, sweeping past his chief rival, the center-left Zionist Union alliance, which got 24 seats.

Mr. Netanyahu and his allies had seized on earlier exit polls that showed a slimmer Likud lead to create an aura of inevitability, and celebrated with singing and dancing. While his opponents vowed a fight, Israeli political analysts agreed even before most of the ballots were counted that he had the advantage, with more seats having gone to the right-leaning parties likely to support him.

It was a stunning turnabout from the last pre-election polls published Friday, which showed the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog, with a four- or five-seat lead and building momentum, and the Likud polling close to 20 seats. To bridge the gap, Mr. Netanyahu embarked on a last-minute scorched-earth campaign, promising that no Palestinian state would be established as long as he remained in office and insulting Arab citizens.

Mr. Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for three years in the 1990s and returned to office in 2009, exulted in what he called “a huge victory” and said he had spoken to the heads of all the parties “in the national camp” and urged them to help him form a government “without any further ado.”

“I am proud of the Israeli people that, in the moment of truth, knew how to separate between what’s important or what’s not and to stand up for what’s important,” he told an exuberant crowd early Wednesday morning at Likud’s election party at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. “For the most important thing for all of us, which is real security, social economy and strong leadership.”

But it remained to be seen how his divisive — some said racist — campaign tactics would affect his ability to govern a fractured Israel.

Mr. Herzog also called the election “an incredible achievement.” He said he had formed a negotiating team and still hoped to lead “a real social government in Israel” that “aspires to peace with our neighbors.”

“The public wants a change,” he said at an election-night party in Tel Aviv, before the Likud’s large margin of victory was revealed by the actual vote count. “We will do everything in our power, given the reality, to reach this. In any case, I can tell you that there will be no decisions tonight.”
An Arab Israeli woman casting her vote in the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm. Credit Atef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency

Based on the results reported on YNet, Mr. Netanyahu could form a narrow coalition of nationalist and religious parties free of the ideological divisions that stymied his last government. That was what he intended when he called early elections in December. President Reuven Rivlin, who in coming days must charge Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Herzog with trying to forge a coalition based on his poll of party leaders’ preferences , said shortly after the polls closed that he would suggest they join forces instead.
Continue reading the main story

“I am convinced that only a unity government can prevent the rapid disintegration of Israel’s democracy and new elections in the near future,” he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Both camps rejected that option publicly, saying the gaps between their world views were too large. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Herzog started working the phones immediately after the polls closed, calling party heads to begin the horse-trading and deal-making in hopes of lining up a majority of lawmakers behind them.

The biggest prize may be Moshe Kahlon, a popular former Likud minister who broke away — in part out of frustration with Mr. Netanyahu — to form Kulanu, which focused on pocketbook issues. Mr. Kahlon leans to the right but has issues with the prime minister, and he said Tuesday night that he would not reveal his recommendation until the final results were tallied.

Kulanu — Hebrew for “All of Us” — won 10 seats , according to the tally YNet reported Wednesday based on 99.5 percent of ballots counted. That is enough to put either side’s basic ideological alliance over the magic number of 61 if they also win the backing of two ultra-Orthodox parties that won a total of 14 seats.

“The clearest political outcome is that Kahlon is going to be the kingmaker, and it really depends on how he is going to play his cards,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “It very much depends on Kahlon.”

Silvan Shalom, a Likud minister, told reporters that the prime minister would reach out first to Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party and to Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, two archconservatives, and “of course Moshe Kahlon,” predicting a coalition “within the next few days” of 63 or 64 seats.

“Israel said today a very clear ‘yes’ to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the Likud to continue leading the State of Israel,” Mr. Shalom said. “We’ll do it with our allies. We’ll have a strong coalition that is able to deal with all the important issues.”

The Zionist Union said, essentially, not so fast.

Nachman Shai, a senior lawmaker from the Labor Party, which joined with the smaller Hatnua to form the new slate, said Mr. Herzog could still form a coalition, thought he did not specify how, and advised the public to “wait and see.” “They’re trying to cash the check and create a certain atmosphere of victory," Mr. Shai told reporters. “We’ll do the same.”

The murky exit-poll predictions led to a murky reaction from the White House, where a spokesman said that President Obama remained “committed to working very closely with the winner of the ongoing elections to cement and further deepen the strong relationship between the United States and Israel, and the president is confident that he can do that with whomever the Israeli people choose.”

The Joint List of Arab parties won 13 seats, making it the third-largest parliamentary faction. Its four component parties previously had 11.

The unity seems to have lifted turnout among Arab voters to its highest level since 1969, said the list’s leader, Ayman Odeh. Arab parties have never joined an Israeli coalition, but Mr. Odeh has indicated that he would try to help Mr. Herzog in other ways in hopes of ending Mr. Netanyahu’s tenure.

Yesh Atid, a centrist party that won a surprising 19 seats in the 2013 election, its first, earned 11 this time. The Jewish Home lost votes to Mr. Netanyahu’s swing to the right and ended up with eight, according to YNet, down from its current 12. The ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu had six, and the leftist Meretz four.

A new ultra-Orthodox breakaway faction apparently failed to pass the raised electoral threshold to enter Parliament, which means its votes will be discarded, costing the right-wing bloc.

As the results of Israel’s tight election roll in, Israelis reflect on the issues they hope the next prime minister will make priorities.
Video by Quynhanh Do, Tamir Elterman and Emily B. Hager on Publish Date March 17, 2015. Photo by Gil Cohen Magen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Turnout was near 72 percent, four percentage points higher than in 2013, which analysts attributed to the surprisingly close contest between the Likud and Zionist Union.

“For the first time in many years, we see a serious strengthening in the two major parties,” said Yehuda Ben Meir of the Institute for National Security Studies. “Both parties are higher up at the expense of the smaller parties, which is good for stability, and it’s a move to the center. The larger parties are always more to the center than the satellite parties.”

But Mr. Plesner of the Democracy Institute said the results showed the need for electoral reform because Israel’s “system is so fragmented, so unstable, so difficult to govern.”

Tuesday’s balloting came just 26 months after Israel’s last election, but the dynamic was entirely different. In 2013, there was no serious challenge to Mr. Netanyahu. This time, Mr. Herzog teamed up with Tzipi Livni to form the Zionist Union, an effort to reclaim the state’s founding pioneer philosophy from a right-wing that increasingly defines it in opposition to Palestinian national aspirations.

They promised to stop construction in isolated Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, to try to renew negotiations with the Palestinians, and to restore relations Mr. Netanyahu had frayed with the White House. Mostly, though, they — along with Yesh Atid and Kulanu — hammered the prime minister on kitchen-table concerns like the high cost of housing and food.

Mr. Netanyahu talked mainly about the threats of an Iranian nuclear weapon and Islamic terrorism, addressing economics only in the final days. That was also when he made a sharp turn to the right, backing away from his 2009 endorsement of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict and sounding an alarm Tuesday morning that Arabs were voting “in droves.”

Many voters complained about a bitter campaign of ugly attacks and a lack of inspiring choices.

“I am happy today to be able to vote, but I know I’ll be unhappy with the result, no matter who wins,” said Elad Grafi, 29, who lives in Rehovot, a large city south of Tel Aviv. Sneering at the likelihood of any candidate being able to form a coalition stable enough to last a full term, he added, “Anyway, I’ll see you here again in two years, right?”

In the Jerusalem suburb of Tzur Hadassah, Eli Paniri, 54, a longtime Likud supporter, said he “voted for the only person who should be prime minister: Netanyahu.”

“I am not ashamed of this,” Mr. Paniri said after weeks of Netanyahu-bashing from all sides. “He is a strong man and, most important, he stood up to President Obama.”
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The Arab vote-- some profound implications here on: March 18, 2015, 06:23:11 AM
NAZARETH, Israel — Choruses of beeping horns echoed through this Arab city in northern Israel as word spread that an alliance of Arab parties had received 14 seats in the next Parliament, making it the third-largest bloc.

Long-divided Arab parties’ forming a coalition was unprecedented; so was the size of their new bloc, offering a good reason for Nazareth and other Arab towns to rejoice.

“This is a great achievement,” said Ahmad Tibi, a veteran Arab politician who was elected to Parliament on Tuesday, speaking at the alliance’s headquarters in Nazareth. Men and women cheered and waved flags bearing the alliance’s slogan, “The Will of the People.”

“We will have before us great challenges. We will fight racism, we will fight fascism; we will defend our rights, regardless of the government,” he said. “Today, we are stronger.”

Yet as the euphoria fades, it remains far from clear what influence the Arab cohort, which calls itself the Joint List, will actually have.

Exit polls on Tuesday night showed that the race between the Likud party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the center-left Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog, was very close. But as the votes were counted, Likud actually had a substantial lead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel posted a video to social media on Tuesday urging Israelis to vote. He said right wing rule was threatened by Arab voters.
Video by on Publish Date March 17, 2015. Photo by Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press.

In any event, Arab parties have never joined governing coalitions, not wanting to be seen as complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Zionist parties do not invite them, explained Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center, an Arab advocacy group.

Yet the head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, sees an achievement in getting this far in Israeli politics.

“There is no Arab in this country who imagined that we would be the third force,” said Mr. Odeh, who only weeks ago was a little-known municipal counselor from Haifa, a mixed Arab-Jewish city in northern Israel.

Some see this election as a beginning in Israeli politics, in which the Arab alliance will become an active oppostion. At the very least, the large turnout gave Arabs more weight to promote their community, said the Mossawa Center director, Mr. Farah.

“The discourse of separation, the discourse of racism, the discourse of incitement, that have been promoted by Bibi Netanyahu and Lieberman is the discourse that we are challenging,” he said, referring to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname and to Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister.

Arabs in Israel number some 1.7 million, forming one-fifth of the country’s population.

Though most are Israeli citizens, they tend to be poorer, less educated and less likely to be employed than their Jewish counterparts. Israeli Arabs say they have felt more marginalized during the years when the government in Jerusalem has been dominated by Mr. Netanyahu and Likud.

For some, it culminated on Tuesday when Mr. Netanyahu, with polls showing Likud falling behind the Zionist Union, implored his party’s faithful to turn out, warning that Arab voters could influence the outcome of the elections.

Later, however, he said in Hebrew on Facebook that “there is nothing wrong with citizens voting, Jewish or Arab, as they wish.”

Few Israeli Arabs appeared mollified.

Both Sami Issa and his son Bassel said they used to vote for Israeli Jewish parties, as did many Arabs in Israel. But separately, they both said that a sense of growing discrimination had pushed them to reconsider.

“I’m an Arab!” said Bassel Issa, 27, a baker. “I vote for Arabs.”
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq sabotaged Bush's negotiations with Iran on: March 18, 2015, 12:28:57 AM
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Another POV on Ferguson PD on: March 17, 2015, 08:44:52 PM
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US LNG production on: March 17, 2015, 08:38:48 PM
second post

 How U.S. LNG Production Will Ultimately Exploit Global Markets
March 13, 2015 | 09:08 GMT
Text Size
Cheniere's LNG facility under construction at Sabine Pass in Louisiana. (ESRI/Gettys)

The growth of liquefied natural gas production in the United States is a charged political topic because of the standoff between Russia and the West. Russian energy giant Gazprom recently shrugged off the potential for U.S. LNG exports in European markets, noting that Russia can beat the United States on price. But given the number of natural gas projects under construction in North America, it is only a matter of time before the United States is influential in global markets. With the low cost of oil and declining LNG prices, it is important to examine the markets where U.S. LNG exports are most competitive. Though export costs make it difficult for the United States to enter European and Asian markets, should oil prices begin to rise, the linkage between LNG and oil prices in Asia will make the United States more competitive, and subsequently influential.


In a world of low energy prices, the cost of shipping LNG from the United States to Europe or Asia is prohibitively expensive. Countries such as Qatar, Algeria and Norway can export LNG to Europe at a much-reduced cost, pricing the United States out of the market. In Asia, countries such as Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia export LNG at prices the United States cannot match, at least for spot exports and short-term LNG contracts.

U.S. Competitiveness Abroad

In any attempt to undermine Russia's pipeline exports to Europe, the United States is at a disadvantage. Natural gas transportation by pipeline is significantly cheaper in most cases than building and employing expensive LNG port infrastructure. In terms of natural gas production and distribution, Russia's operating costs are low and their export infrastructure is already built. Some of Russia's most important markets, including those in Central Europe, already have spot prices around $6.60. Even now Russia's natural gas prices have not bottomed out, and prices at LNG hubs remain just as low.

Meanwhile, prices in the United Kingdom are around $7.16 per one million British thermal units (mmbtu) and about $6.92 per mmbtu in Belgium. However, some countries, such as the Baltic states, have proved willing to pay a little more for U.S. natural gas to keep Russian influence at a minimum. Lithuania and Houston-based company Cheniere Energy Inc. have a nonbinding natural gas deal for purchases, but only if prices are somewhat comparable to European norms.

Existing contracts coming out of the United States are based off the Henry Hub spot prices index, with a fixed fee added for liquefaction and transportation costs. Cheniere has signed several 20-year contracts for its Sabine Pass LNG facility, located in Louisiana, on the border with Texas. The contract terms typically run about 115 percent of the price of U.S. natural gas (currently $2.81 per mmbtu) with an additional $3.00 per mmbtu for liquefaction fees. After other charges for shipping, insurance and regasification are factored in, the total cost of U.S. natural gas at LNG terminals in Europe is anywhere from $7 to $8. Comparatively, natural gas prices in the United States are relatively low and will probably increase regardless of oil prices — oil and natural gas prices in the United States are not linked. In short, the United States is only marginally competitive at current LNG prices and cannot beat Russia's low potential operating costs.

The same disadvantages the United States faces in Europe also apply to Asia. LNG prices to South Korea, China and Japan are about the same as they are in Europe, only the cost of shipping is more because of the longer distances involved. With new LNG export capacity coming online in Australia, the United States has to compete with projects that are as capital intensive but closer to their export markets.

The Scale of Influence

While the United States does not threaten Russia's market share in Europe, or eventually Asia, the potential for exported U.S. LNG does improve Europe's leverage against Russia by providing an alternative source to draw from. Moreover, it helps create an LNG price ceiling when negotiating with Russia or other providers of natural gas. In time, the growth of North American LNG will force traditional import partners to undercut the price of new sources of natural gas.

The exact scale of U.S. LNG exports is unclear and largely dependent on price. Most likely exports will be in the order of 50 billion cubic meters, a sizable addition to the global LNG supply. In addition, between now and 2020, the United States and Australia alone could increase the global LNG supply by as much as 150 bcm; the market in 2013 was just 325 bcm. The Sabine Pass LNG facility will ramp up production later this year, but other facilities still under construction will not see first production until 2017 or 2018 at the earliest. Russia and other competitors still have a few years to secure markets and undermine potential LNG contracts by offering lower prices.

The global growth of LNG markets will help European markets move away from contracts indexed to oil prices, as an alternative to creating natural gas pricing hubs. This will eventually enable natural gas and oil prices to decouple, as seen in the United States. This process is important for the European Union and is a cornerstone of its Third Energy Package and Energy Union Package. Even Russia has begun transitioning in some cases, the most notable example being Gazprom's May 2014 deal with Italy: Gazprom caved on the pricing mechanism to ENI, basing it on spot prices instead of Gazprom's preferred contracts, which are in turn based on oil prices.

Should oil prices increase, Asian LNG prices would see the biggest change, dominated as they are by oil-indexed long-term contracts. Because the Asian market is roughly five times the size of Europe's, most of the contracts signed by U.S. LNG exporters have been with the region. South Korea, China and Japan are also three top importers, offering more potential and greater opportunity.

The United States is also in a position to exploit local markets in need of natural gas, such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, countries distanced from LNG suppliers further afield. However, the overall LNG markets of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina are small, and all three are major energy producers in their own right.

With all these factors in mind, the five U.S. LNG projects that are already under construction will eventually come online, much like those under construction in Australia. But many U.S. projects without final investment decisions will probably get delayed and may not even be built at all. The expansion of existing projects under construction is a more plausible option. Ultimately, the United States will not be able to compete with Russia in Europe and Asia directly. Rather, the addition of its sizable LNG exports to the global market will help Europe shift its contracts with Russia and lead to more opportunities in Asia.
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / $500M here and $500M there and pretty soon you're talking about real money on: March 17, 2015, 08:32:29 PM
 cry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Matt Ridley: Fossil Fuels will save the world on: March 17, 2015, 08:08:55 PM

Matt Ridley
March 13, 2015 5:33 p.m. ET

The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.

These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy. In fact, a more realistic assessment of our energy and environmental situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress.

In 2013, about 87% of the energy that the world consumed came from fossil fuels, a figure that—remarkably—was unchanged from 10 years before. This roughly divides into three categories of fuel and three categories of use: oil used mainly for transport, gas used mainly for heating, and coal used mainly for electricity.

Over this period, the overall volume of fossil-fuel consumption has increased dramatically, but with an encouraging environmental trend: a diminishing amount of carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced. The biggest contribution to decarbonizing the energy system has been the switch from high-carbon coal to lower-carbon gas in electricity generation.

On a global level, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have contributed hardly at all to the drop in carbon emissions, and their modest growth has merely made up for a decline in the fortunes of zero-carbon nuclear energy. (The reader should know that I have an indirect interest in coal through the ownership of land in Northern England on which it is mined, but I nonetheless applaud the displacement of coal by gas in recent years.)

The argument that fossil fuels will soon run out is dead, at least for a while. The collapse of the price of oil over the past six months is the result of abundance: an inevitable consequence of the high oil prices of recent years, which stimulated innovation in hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, seismology and information technology. The U.S.—the country with the oldest and most developed hydrocarbon fields—has found itself once again, surprisingly, at the top of the energy-producing league, rivaling Saudi Arabia in oil and Russia in gas.

The shale genie is now out of the bottle. Even if the current low price drives out some high-cost oil producers—in the North Sea, Canada, Russia, Iran and offshore, as well as in America—shale drillers can step back in whenever the price rebounds. As Mark Hill of Allegro Development Corporation argued last week, the frackers are currently experiencing their own version of Moore’s law: a rapid fall in the cost and time it takes to drill a well, along with a rapid rise in the volume of hydrocarbons they are able to extract.

And the shale revolution has yet to go global. When it does, oil and gas in tight rock formations will give the world ample supplies of hydrocarbons for decades, if not centuries. Lurking in the wings for later technological breakthroughs is methane hydrate, a seafloor source of gas that exceeds in quantity all the world’s coal, oil and gas put together.

So those who predict the imminent exhaustion of fossil fuels are merely repeating the mistakes of the U.S. presidential commission that opined in 1922 that “already the output of gas has begun to wane. Production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate.” Or President Jimmy Carter when he announced on television in 1977 that “we could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

That fossil fuels are finite is a red herring. The Atlantic Ocean is finite, but that does not mean that you risk bumping into France if you row out of a harbor in Maine. The buffalo of the American West were infinite, in the sense that they could breed, yet they came close to extinction. It is an ironic truth that no nonrenewable resource has ever run dry, while renewable resources—whales, cod, forests, passenger pigeons—have frequently done so.

The second argument for giving up fossil fuels is that new rivals will shortly price them out of the market. But it is not happening. The great hope has long been nuclear energy, but even if there is a rush to build new nuclear power stations over the next few years, most will simply replace old ones due to close. The world’s nuclear output is down from 6% of world energy consumption in 2003 to 4% today. It is forecast to inch back up to just 6.7% by 2035, according the Energy Information Administration.
Nuclear’s problem is cost. In meeting the safety concerns of environmentalists, politicians and regulators added requirements for extra concrete, steel and pipework, and even more for extra lawyers, paperwork and time. The effect was to make nuclear plants into huge and lengthy boondoggles with no competition or experimentation to drive down costs. Nuclear is now able to compete with fossil fuels only when it is subsidized.

As for renewable energy, hydroelectric is the biggest and cheapest supplier, but it has the least capacity for expansion. Technologies that tap the energy of waves and tides remain unaffordable and impractical, and most experts think that this won’t change in a hurry. Geothermal is a minor player for now. And bioenergy—that is, wood, ethanol made from corn or sugar cane, or diesel made from palm oil—is proving an ecological disaster: It encourages deforestation and food-price hikes that cause devastation among the world’s poor, and per unit of energy produced, it creates even more carbon dioxide than coal.

Wind power, for all the public money spent on its expansion, has inched up to—wait for it—1% of world energy consumption in 2013. Solar, for all the hype, has not even managed that: If we round to the nearest whole number, it accounts for 0% of world energy consumption.

Both wind and solar are entirely reliant on subsidies for such economic viability as they have. World-wide, the subsidies given to renewable energy currently amount to roughly $10 per gigajoule: These sums are paid by consumers to producers, so they tend to go from the poor to the rich, often to landowners (I am a landowner and can testify that I receive and refuse many offers of risk-free wind and solar subsidies).

It is true that some countries subsidize the use of fossil fuels, but they do so at a much lower rate—the world average is about $1.20 per gigajoule—and these are mostly subsidies for consumers (not producers), so they tend to help the poor, for whom energy costs are a disproportionate share of spending.

The costs of renewable energy are coming down, especially in the case of solar. But even if solar panels were free, the power they produce would still struggle to compete with fossil fuel—except in some very sunny locations—because of all the capital equipment required to concentrate and deliver the energy. This is to say nothing of the great expanses of land on which solar facilities must be built and the cost of retaining sufficient conventional generator capacity to guarantee supply on a dark, cold, windless evening.

The two fundamental problems that renewables face are that they take up too much space and produce too little energy. Consider Solar Impulse, the solar-powered airplane now flying around the world. Despite its huge wingspan (similar to a 747), slow speed and frequent stops, the only cargo that it can carry is the pilots themselves. That is a good metaphor for the limitations of renewables.

To run the U.S. economy entirely on wind would require a wind farm the size of Texas, California and New Mexico combined—backed up by gas on windless days. To power it on wood would require a forest covering two-thirds of the U.S., heavily and continually harvested.

John Constable, who will head a new Energy Institute at the University of Buckingham in Britain, points out that the trickle of energy that human beings managed to extract from wind, water and wood before the Industrial Revolution placed a great limit on development and progress. The incessant toil of farm laborers generated so little surplus energy in the form of food for men and draft animals that the accumulation of capital, such as machinery, was painfully slow. Even as late as the 18th century, this energy-deprived economy was sufficient to enrich daily life for only a fraction of the population.

Our old enemy, the second law of thermodynamics, is the problem here. As a teenager’s bedroom generally illustrates, left to its own devices, everything in the world becomes less ordered, more chaotic, tending toward “entropy,” or thermodynamic equilibrium. To reverse this tendency and make something complex, ordered and functional requires work. It requires energy.

The more energy you have, the more intricate, powerful and complex you can make a system. Just as human bodies need energy to be ordered and functional, so do societies. In that sense, fossil fuels were a unique advance because they allowed human beings to create extraordinary patterns of order and complexity—machines and buildings—with which to improve their lives.

The result of this great boost in energy is what the economic historian and philosopher Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. In the case of the U.S., there has been a roughly 9,000% increase in the value of goods and services available to the average American since 1800, almost all of which are made with, made of, powered by or propelled by fossil fuels.

Still, more than a billion people on the planet have yet to get access to electricity and to experience the leap in living standards that abundant energy brings. This is not just an inconvenience for them: Indoor air pollution from wood fires kills four million people a year. The next time that somebody at a rally against fossil fuels lectures you about her concern for the fate of her grandchildren, show her a picture of an African child dying today from inhaling the dense muck of a smoky fire.

Notice, too, the ways in which fossil fuels have contributed to preserving the planet. As the American author and fossil-fuels advocate Alex Epstein points out in a bravely unfashionable book, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” the use of coal halted and then reversed the deforestation of Europe and North America. The turn to oil halted the slaughter of the world’s whales and seals for their blubber. Fertilizer manufactured with gas halved the amount of land needed to produce a given amount of food, thus feeding a growing population while sparing land for wild nature.

To throw away these immense economic, environmental and moral benefits, you would have to have a very good reason. The one most often invoked today is that we are wrecking the planet’s climate. But are we?

Although the world has certainly warmed since the 19th century, the rate of warming has been slow and erratic. There has been no increase in the frequency or severity of storms or droughts, no acceleration of sea-level rise. Arctic sea ice has decreased, but Antarctic sea ice has increased. At the same time, scientists are agreed that the extra carbon dioxide in the air has contributed to an improvement in crop yields and a roughly 14% increase in the amount of all types of green vegetation on the planet since 1980.

That carbon-dioxide emissions should cause warming is not a new idea. In 1938, the British scientist Guy Callender thought that he could already detect warming as a result of carbon-dioxide emissions. He reckoned, however, that this was “likely to prove beneficial to mankind” by shifting northward the climate where cultivation was possible.
Only in the 1970s and 1980s did scientists begin to say that the mild warming expected as a direct result of burning fossil fuels—roughly a degree Celsius per doubling of carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere—might be greatly amplified by water vapor and result in dangerous warming of two to four degrees a century or more. That “feedback” assumption of high “sensitivity” remains in virtually all of the mathematical models used to this day by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

And yet it is increasingly possible that it is wrong. As Patrick Michaels of the libertarian Cato Institute has written, since 2000, 14 peer-reviewed papers, published by 42 authors, many of whom are key contributors to the reports of the IPCC, have concluded that climate sensitivity is low because net feedbacks are modest. They arrive at this conclusion based on observed temperature changes, ocean-heat uptake and the balance between warming and cooling emissions (mainly sulfate aerosols). On average, they find sensitivity to be 40% lower than the models on which the IPCC relies.

If these conclusions are right, they would explain the failure of the Earth’s surface to warm nearly as fast as predicted over the past 35 years, a time when—despite carbon-dioxide levels rising faster than expected—the warming rate has never reached even two-tenths of a degree per decade and has slowed down to virtually nothing in the past 15 to 20 years. This is one reason the latest IPCC report did not give a “best estimate” of sensitivity and why it lowered its estimate of near-term warming.
Most climate scientists remain reluctant to abandon the models and take the view that the current “hiatus” has merely delayed rapid warming. A turning point to dangerously rapid warming could be around the corner, even though it should have shown up by now. So it would be wise to do something to cut our emissions, so long as that something does not hurt the poor and those struggling to reach a modern standard of living.

We should encourage the switch from coal to gas in the generation of electricity, provide incentives for energy efficiency, get nuclear power back on track and keep developing solar power and electricity storage. We should also invest in research on ways to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, by fertilizing the ocean or fixing it through carbon capture and storage. Those measures all make sense. And there is every reason to promote open-ended research to find some unexpected new energy technology.

The one thing that will not work is the one thing that the environmental movement insists upon: subsidizing wealthy crony capitalists to build low-density, low-output, capital-intensive, land-hungry renewable energy schemes, while telling the poor to give up the dream of getting richer through fossil fuels.

Mr. Ridley is the author of “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” and a member of the British House of Lords.
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sinbad called out Hillary on: March 17, 2015, 05:40:38 PM
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: What other choice is there for Dems? on: March 17, 2015, 01:18:56 PM
second post

She’s weighed down with negatives, but do the Democrats have a choice?
by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

466520736-676x450Hillary Clinton will not run in 2016 on the slogan of continuing the hope-and-change policies of Barack Obama. The president has not enjoyed a 50 percent approval rating since a brief period after his reelection. And he is no friend of the Clintons.

Abroad, chaos in the Middle East, failed reset with Russia, leading from behind in Libya, and the deaths in Benghazi are no more winning issues than are, at home, the Obamacare fiasco, $9 trillion in new debt, and the alphabet soup of the AP, IRS, NSA, and VA scandals.

The Democratic party has also radically changed in just the six years Barack Obama has been in the White House, as it suffered the greatest losses in Congress since the 1920s. Other than hoping for a serious Republican scandal, the Democrats can only cling to two assumptions. One is historic voter turnout by minorities. The second is bloc voting on the basis of racial and gender solidarity.

If there is insufficient turnout, or if groups do not vote in lockstep on the basis of their racial or sexual identities, then — witness the 2010 and 2014 elections — Democratic candidates can get walloped.


A paradox arose in Obama’s efforts at encouraging bloc voting. To galvanize groups on the basis of their race, tribe, or gender, the Obama cadre has resorted to divisive language  — “punish our enemies,” “nation of cowards,” “my people” — that turns off independent voters and even some liberal white voters. When the president weighed in during the trial of the “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman by telling the nation that if he had had a son, that boy would have looked like Trayvon Martin, such an eerie tribal appeal bothered at least as many Americans as it may have stirred. Blacks and Latinos may appreciate Eric Holder’s constant sermonizing about white prejudice or Obama’s riffs on Skip Gates and Ferguson, but just as many other Americans do not believe that Gates was singled out on the basis of race and do not see how the thuggish Michael Brown, who had robbed a store and rushed a police officer, could conceivably become a civil-rights hero.

More importantly, there is no indication that Obama’s knack for firing up minority voters is transferrable in the same measure to other Democratic candidates such as Hillary Clinton. Once one appeals to tribal identity on the basis of race and appearance, one lives or dies with such superficial affinities. Hillary, in other words, is not Latino or black, and her winning 60 percent of the former or 85 percent of the latter would simply not be good enough under the formulaic racial bloc voting that Obama has bequeathed to Democrats. In addition, Obama seems to bestow voter resentment, as much as he does enthusiasm, on other Democrats. In 2014, it seemed that Obama harmed Democratic candidates a lot more than he helped them, especially when he reminded the electorate that his own policies were de facto on the ballot.

Nor are Obama’s bread-and-circuses issues catching on. Most Americans believe that the era of adolescence is over, and the next president will have to be an adult who puts away the golf clubs and ESPN monitors to clean up what will be $20 trillion in debt and a collapsed foreign policy. The public seems to accept that taxes can’t go much higher. No one thinks that borrowing trillions was a sign of government austerity. Too many, not too few, Americans appear to be hooked on entitlements. The borders are too porous, not too well guarded. Spiking the stock market was not the same as creating well-paying middle-class jobs. More gas and oil came despite, not because of, Obama.

What, then, is Hillary Clinton’s strategy for 2016?

Once again, mostly symbolism. Apart from Hillary and the idea of the first female president, the Democrats have little to turn to — which explains why Hillary may well be nominated even if her health and inclinations — and her disastrous performances — lean against it.

What won Barack Obama the presidency in 2008 was public anger over the Iraq war, fear following the 2008 Wall Street meltdown — and his own iconic status as potentially the first African-American president. Had the surge in Iraq succeeded a year earlier, or had the financial markets not crashed, or had the Democrats nominated a Joe Biden or a Howard Dean, then they probably would have lost the presidency.

Unfortunately for them, however, in 2016 there will be no incumbent Republican administration to scapegoat. “Bush did it” is now stale after six years. Blaming the Tea Party or the Republican House is likewise old hat. There is no success story to bandy about — no desire to bring on another Libya or expand Obamacare or borrow another $9 trillion.

There is only the war-on-women mantra that it is past time for a female president and Hillary has the best shot at making it. She is counting on the idea that blacks and Latinos will turn out for her as an icon of oppressed minorities in the manner they did for Obama, and that white working-class voters will forget the Democratic racial and gender pandering that is so often implicitly aimed against them.

On the face of it, the idea of Hillary Clinton as a feminist trailblazer should be ludicrous. Forty-four women have already served in the Senate since the first one did 93 years ago. When Hillary took over as secretary of state in 2009, there had not been a white male secretary since 1997.

Unlike national female politicians like Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton gained public exposure only by virtue of marriage to the powerbroker governor and then president Bill Clinton. Implicit in her messaging is a return to Bill Clinton’s economic good times of the 1990s and the implication that he might well be running half the show — a subliminal and quite sexist message.

Take away the Clinton name, and Hillary Rodham would be no more likely to become president than would Democratic senators like Barbara Boxer and Barbara Mikulski. In her own public and private life Hillary Clinton has had few feminist credentials beyond her self-promotion. She never insisted on pay equity for her female staffers while senator. She did not object much when her husband’s political operatives sought to destroy the reputations of the women with whom he had liaisons — Juanita Broaddrick, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey — some of whom made powerful cases that they had been coerced into sexual encounters and then sullied and derided when they complained. For Hillary, if it was a question of believing that her husband had inappropriately solicited sex with a female subordinate or an otherwise vulnerable woman, or ensuring that her own meal ticket was secure, the choice was always a no-brainer.

Hillary has never been a very inspiring candidate. She is petulant when pressed, and appears at once bored and angry when cross-examined. Her stump speeches can be best characterized as high-pitched and punctuated with shrillness.

She does not so much habitually lie, as habitually see no problem with lying, as if she either cannot distinguish untruth from veracity, or simply believes that normal expectations of conduct should not apply to herself. Her mea culpas about the e-mail scandal were historic in that not a single declaration that she made could possibly be true: One does not need two smartphones to have two e-mail accounts; Ms. Clinton uses not just one but, by her own admission, four smart communication devices. The physical presence of security guards does not ensure a server’s security from cyber attacks. Bill Clinton does not use e-mail, and thus Hillary could not have communicated with him by that means as she claimed.

She seems unaware that no one has the right to decide when or if to comply with federal regulations when leaving office. No one has the right to be sole auditor of her own compliance with federal law. No other major Cabinet secretary in the Obama administration failed to have a .gov account. And on and on and on.

In sum, the Democrats have neither a winning agenda nor someone to blame this time around. They are stuck with only symbols and icons — and this time shaky ones at that. In 2016, choosing any candidate other than the potential first woman president would be as futile as running Joe Biden in 2008 instead of Barack Obama as the potential first African-American president. There would be no icon, not even a small chance of massive minority turnout, and certainly less bloc voting on the basis of tribe. In other words, for the Democrats, 2016 would hinge on just defending the Obama record and the principles of liberal theology — and thereby probably falling short on election day. It is either the worn-out idea of Hillary, warts and all, as both victim and trailblazer — or bust.
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Emergency Oil Supply Pact w Israel has not been renewed on: March 17, 2015, 01:13:19 PM
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Reason and Passion on: March 17, 2015, 12:59:21 PM
"When men exercise their reason coolly and freely, on a variety of distinct questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions, on some of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their opinions if they are so to be called, will be the same." --James Madison, Federalist No. 50, 1788
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 17, 2015, 12:56:35 PM
Hey, I was just having a moment of fun smiley

Anyway, here is today's Dick Morris:
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama removes Iran and Hezbollah from the Terrorist list on: March 16, 2015, 07:51:32 PM
WTF?!?   cool cool cool

Edited to add that I meant to click on  angry angry angry
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: March 16, 2015, 04:06:17 PM
Apparently Pravda on the Hudson is backstroking; the article was "not without fault" , , , rolleyes
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurds say ISIS used chlorine gas on: March 16, 2015, 10:40:07 AM
This can't be!  Bush lied when he said there was no WMD!

The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq announced on Saturday that it has evidence that the Islamic State used chlorine gas in a suicide bomb attack on January 23 between Mosul and the Iraq-Syria border. Kurdish officials said that lab tests showed traces of chlorine, though these tests have not been independently corroborated. Iraqi forces in Tikrit have found chlorine in Islamic State facilities, which they believe were being used in weapons. The Islamic State has been accused of using chlorine before, but this would be the first time it has been proven to have used chemical weapons.

The announcement comes as Kurdish Peshmerga make new gains against the Islamic State and Iraqi forces continue their offensive to retake the city of Tikrit. The battle in Tikrit is currently stalled as the Iraqi Security Forces await reinforcements and to allow civilians to leave the city, security officials have told reporters.
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Environmental Religion on: March 16, 2015, 10:27:41 AM
Too bad the piece does not address the reality of serious environmental problems, but not without insight nonetheless.

Notable & Quotable: Environmental Religion
Environmentalism is a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.
March 15, 2015 5:55 p.m. ET

From a speech by the late novelist Michael Crichton to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, 2003:

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe. . . .

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?
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236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq's Iran Jam on: March 16, 2015, 10:22:22 AM
Second post

Obama’s Iran Jam
The White House wants the U.N. to vote but not the U.S. Congress.
March 15, 2015 6:44 p.m. ET

One unfortunate side effect of last week’s letter from 47 GOP Senators to Iran is that it has helped the White House and its media friends obscure the far more important story—the degree to which President Obama is trying to prevent Congress from playing any meaningful role in assessing his one-man Iran deal.

Administration officials are huffing about Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s “unconstitutional” letter, but it’s only a letter and Congress has the right to free speech. If a mere letter from a minority of the Senate has the power to scuttle a deal with Iran, as Mr. Obama suggests it might, then maybe the deal is too fragile to be worth doing.

The real constitutional outlier here is Mr. Obama’s attempt to jam Congress so it’s irrelevant. That’s clear from a remarkable exchange of letters between Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.

Mr. Corker wrote March 12 asking the President to clarify comments by Vice President Joe Biden and others that an Iran deal could “take effect without congressional approval.” He also asked about media reports that “your administration is contemplating taking an agreement, or aspects of it, to the United Nations Security Council for a vote,” while threatening to veto legislation that would require Congress to vote.

Mr. McDonough replied for the President on the weekend in a letter that can only be described as an affront to Congress’s constitutional prerogatives. The chief of staff asked Mr. Corker to further delay his bipartisan legislation that would require a Senate vote within 60 days on any Iran deal. “The legislation would potentially prevent any deal from succeeding by suggesting that Congress must vote to ‘approve’ any deal, and by removing existing sanctions waiver authorities that have already been granted to the President,” he wrote.

So Mr. McDonough says Congress has “a role to play,” whatever that is, as long as it doesn’t interfere with what Mr. Obama wants. And once Congress grants Mr. Obama a waiver, it can never take that away even if Congress concludes that the President is misusing it.

The larger context here is that Mr. Obama is trying to make his Iran deal a fait accompli before Congress has any say. His plan is to strike a deal and submit it to the U.N. Security Council for approval, hemming in Congress. He’ll then waive some Iran sanctions on his own, while arguing that anyone who opposes the deal wants war.

Mr. McDonough’s letter includes a long list of previous agreements that “do not require congressional approval.” But the examples he cites are either minor accords or have had substantial bipartisan support. There is no precedent in the nuclear era for a President negotiating such a major arms-control accord without Congressional assent.

Mr. Obama might have avoided this showdown with Congress if he hadn’t treated America’s elected representatives as little more than a public nuisance. His minions have disclosed more details of the Iran talks to the media than to Congress. It’s little wonder that few Members of either party trust his negotiating skill or security judgment.

Mr. Corker has 65 supporters for his legislation, and he has already delayed it through March 24 at the request of Democrats. If he delays it any more, he risks conceding Mr. Obama’s desire to make Congress the irrelevant equivalent of the Iranian parliament.
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why Nucleaer Utopians are wrong on: March 16, 2015, 10:12:36 AM
Why the ‘Nuclear Utopians’ Are Wrong
Unilaterally reducing or eliminating America’s nuclear arsenal will not make the world a safer place.
An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from USS Nevada. ENLARGE
An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from USS Nevada. Photo: Getty Images/Stocktrek Images
Keith B. Payne
March 15, 2015 6:17 p.m. ET

A debate over the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is at a pivotal moment. Last month the Obama administration proposed a budget that calls for modernization of the “nuclear triad” of missiles, submarines and bombers. This is crucial because since the end of the Cold War the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been cut by 80% and after decades of neglect each leg of the triad is aging.

Nevertheless, the Defense Department’s $15.9 billion nuclear modernization budget for fiscal year 2016, up slightly from 2015, has met strong disapproval from analysts and others whom I call nuclear utopians. This group insists that the U.S. should delay or skip modernization, make further deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, or even eliminate it.

By contrast, nuclear realists believe that, given the belligerence of Russia and China and their buildup of nuclear forces, prudence now demands that the U.S. modernize and make no further reductions below those already scheduled in the 2010 New Start Treaty. The congressional defense-budget hearings now under way will have far-reaching implications for U.S. national security and international order.

Nuclear utopians tend to believe that international cooperation, not nuclear deterrence, has prevented nuclear war since World War II. As Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, claimed in a speech last month: “We have been spared that fate because we created an intricate and essential system of treaties, laws and agreements.” The U.S. can lead the world toward nuclear reductions, the utopian thinking goes, by showing that Washington no longer relies on nuclear weapons and seeks no new capabilities.

This U.S. example, says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will “induce parallel” behavior in others. But if the U.S. attributes continuing value to nuclear weapons by maintaining its arsenal, says Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “other countries will be more inclined to seek” them. In short, the U.S. cannot expect others to forgo nuclear weapons if it retains them.

Nuclear realists respond that the U.S. already has cut its tactical nuclear weapons from a few thousand in 1991 to a few hundred today, while deployed strategic nuclear weapons have been cut to roughly 1,600 accountable weapons from an estimated 9,000 in 1992, with more reductions planned under New Start. Robert Joseph, a former undersecretary of state for arms control, notes that these reductions “appear to have had no moderating effect on Russian, Chinese or North Korean nuclear programs. Neither have U.S. reductions led to any effective strengthening of international nonproliferation efforts.”

Realists point out that foreign leaders base their decisions about nuclear weaponry largely on their perceived strategic needs, not in response to U.S. disarmament. Thus a close review of India by S. Paul Kapur, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, concluded that “Indian leaders do not seek to emulate U.S. nuclear behavior; they formulate policy based primarily on their assessment of the security threats facing India.”

The same self-interested calculation is true for those nuclear and aspiring nuclear states that are of security concern to the U.S. They seek nuclear weapons to coerce their neighbors, including U.S. allies, and to counter U.S. conventional forces to gain a free hand to press their regional military ambitions.

Moreover, many U.S. allies have given up the nuclear option because America protects them with a “nuclear umbrella.” Some allies, including the Japanese and South Koreans, have said that if the U.S. nuclear umbrella loses credibility, they may consider getting their own. Further U.S. reductions may thus inspire nuclear proliferation.

Nuclear utopians and realists also perceive international relations differently. Utopians see an orderly system that functions predictably and increasingly amicably. Based on this perception they make two confident predictions.

The first is that U.S. deterrence will work reliably even with a relatively small nuclear arsenal, or even nuclear zero. In 2010 the authors of an essay in Foreign Affairs predicted confidently that a U.S. capability to retaliate “against only ten cities” would be adequate to deter Russia.

A second prediction is that differences between the U.S. and Russia or China will be resolved without regard to nuclear threats or capabilities. The 2012 report by the Global Zero Commission claimed that, “The risk of nuclear confrontation between the United States and either Russia or China belongs to the past, not the future.”

Nuclear realists have no confidence in these predictions. Before the nuclear age, great powers periodically came into intense conflict, and deterrence relying on conventional forces failed to prevent catastrophic wars. Since 1945, however, a powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal appears to have had a decisive effect in deterring the outbreak of World War III and containing regional crises and conflicts. Further deep U.S. reductions now would likely increase the risks of war, possibly including nuclear war.

Today as for millennia, international relations are fluid, unpredictable and dangerous. Russia’s shocking aggression in Europe is a cold reminder of this reality. In January prominent Russian journalist Alexander Golts warned, “The West has forgotten how it had used nuclear deterrence to coexist with the Soviet Union. Now it will have to open up that playbook once more.”

Further erosion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would take decades to reverse, create fear among key allies, and inspire foes to challenge an America that appears less able to deter conflicts, nuclear or otherwise, in the hard times ahead. These are the stakes in the current debate over nuclear modernization.

Mr. Payne is the director of the Graduate School of Defense and Strategic Studies at Missouri State University, and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Valerie Jarret did it?!? on: March 15, 2015, 02:29:00 PM
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two interesting articles on Rand on: March 15, 2015, 11:14:27 AM
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Paradox of American Electoral Reform on: March 15, 2015, 10:49:28 AM
 The Paradox of America's Electoral Reform
Geopolitical Weekly
March 10, 2015 | 07:56 GMT
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By George Friedman

We are now in the early phases of selecting the president of the United States. Vast amounts of money are being raised, plans are being laid, opposition research is underway and the first significant scandal has broken with the discovery that Hillary Clinton used a non-government email account for government business. Ahead of us is an extended series of primaries, followed by an election and perhaps a dispute over some aspect of the election. In the United States, the presidential election process takes about two years, particularly when the sitting president cannot run for re-election.

This election process matters to the world for two reasons. First, the world's only global power will be increasingly self-absorbed, and the sitting president — already weakened by the opposition party controlling both houses of Congress — is increasingly limited in what he can do. This is disturbing in some ways, since all presidential elections contain visions of the apocalypse that will follow the election of an opponent. During the U.S. election season, the world hears a litany of self-denigration and self-loathing that can be frightening emanating from a country that produces nearly a quarter of the world's wealth each year and commands the world's oceans. If Honduras were to engage in this behavior, the world would hardly notice. When the United States does it, the public discourse can convince others that the United States is on the verge of collapse, and that perspective has the potential to shape at least some actions on the global stage.
Tempering the Passions of Politics

The United States sees itself as the City on the Hill, an example to the world. But along with any redemptive sensibility comes its counterpart: the apocalyptic. The other candidate is betraying the promise of America, and therefore destroying it. Extreme messages are hardwired into the vision that created the republic.

The founders understood the inherent immoderation of politics and sought to solve problems by limiting democracy and emphasizing representative democracy. Americans select representatives through various complex courses. They do not directly elect presidents, but members of the Electoral College.

Likely an archaic institution, the Electoral College still represents the founders' fear of the passions of the people — both the intensity of some, and the indifference of others. The founders also distrusted the state while fully understanding its necessity. They had two visions: that representatives would make the law, and that these representatives would not have politics as a profession. Since re-election was not their primary goal, they were freed from democratic pressures to use their own wisdom in crafting laws.

The founders saw civil society — business, farms, churches and so on — as ultimately more important than the state, and they saw excessive political passion as misplaced. First, it took away from the private pursuits they so valued, and it tended to make political life more important than it should be. Second, they feared that ordinary men (women were excluded) might be elected as representatives at various levels. They set property requirements to assure sobriety (or so they thought) in representatives and at least limit the extent to which they were interested in politics. They set age requirements to assure a degree of maturity. They tried to shape representative democracy with standards they considered prudent — paralleling the values of their own social class, where private pursuits predominated and public affairs were a burdensome duty.

It is not that the founders regarded government as unimportant; to the contrary, it was central to civilization. Their concern was excessive passion on the part of the electorate, so they created a republican form of representative government because they feared the passions of the public. They also feared political parties and the factions and emotions they would arouse.

Parties and Party Bosses

Of course it was the founders who created political parties soon after the founding. The property requirements dissolved fairly quickly, the idea that state houses would elect senators went away, and the ideological passions and love of scandal emerged.

Political parties were organized state by state, and within state by counties and cities. These parties emerged with two roles. The first was to generate and offer potential leaders for election at all levels. The second was to serve as a means of mediation between the public — for multiple classes, from the wealthy to the poor — and the state. The political machines that dominated the country served as feeders of the republican system and ombudsmen for citizens.

The party bosses did not have visions of redemption or apocalypse. They were what the founders didn't want: professional politicians, not necessarily holding office themselves but overseeing the selection of those who would. Since these officeholders owed their jobs to the party boss, the boss determined legislation. And the more powerful bosses populated the smoke-filled rooms that selected presidents.

This was a system made for corruption, of course, and it violated the founders' vision, but it also fulfilled that vision in a way. The party bosses' power resided in building coalitions that they could serve. In the large industrial cities where immigrants came to work in the factories, that meant finding people jobs, securing services, maintaining the schools and so on. They didn't do this because they were public-spirited, but because they wanted to hold power. Even if companies that kicked back money to the bosses built the schools or the brother-in-law of a party boss owned the company that paved the streets, the schools got built and the streets got paved. The political machines were very real in rural areas as well.

Every four years, party bosses gathered at the party convention with the goal of selecting a candidate who would win. They would allow the candidate his ideological foibles, so long as they retained the ability to name postmasters and judges and appoint federal contracts in their areas. The system was corrupt, but it produced leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as some less illustrious people.
The Boss System Breaks Down

Starting in 1972, following Richard Nixon's presidency, the United States shifted away from a system of political bosses. This was achieved by broadly expanding primaries at all levels. Rather than bosses selecting candidates and controlling them, direct democratic elections were used for candidate selection. Since the bosses didn't select candidates, the candidates were beholden to the voters rather than the bosses. Each election year, the voters would select the candidates and then select the officeholder. Over time, the power of the political machine was broken and replaced by a series of elections. The founders did not want this level of democracy, but neither did they explicitly want the party boss.

This change had two unanticipated consequences. The first was that the importance of money in the political process surged. In the old system, you had to convince bosses to support you. That took time and effort and required that promises be made, but it did not require vast amounts of money. Under the primary system, apart from the national election, primary elections take place in almost all states. Candidates must build their own machines in each state and appeal directly to voters. That means huge expenditures to create a machine and buy advertising in each state.

As the bosses' corruption was curbed but money's centrality soared, the types of corruption endemic to the political system shifted. Corruption moved from favors for bosses to special treatment of fundraisers, but it was still there. Reformers tried to limit the amount of money that could be contributed, but they ignored two facts. First, a primary system for the presidency is fiendishly expensive simply because delivering the message to the public in 50 states costs a fortune. Second, given the stakes, the desire to influence government is difficult to curb. The means will be found to donate money, and in some cases it will be done in the hope and expectation of favors. The reforms changed the shape of corruption but could not eliminate it.

The second unintended consequence was that it institutionalized political polarization. The party boss was not a passionate man. But those who go to the polls in primaries tend to be. Turnout at American elections is always low. The founders set the election for a Tuesday rather than a weekend as in many countries, and it is a work day, with children to be picked up at school, dinner to be cooked and so on. The founders designed politics to be less important than private life, and in the competition on Election Tuesday, private life tends to win, particularly in off-year elections and primaries.

The people who vote in primaries tend to be passionate believers. The center, which holds the largest block of voters in the general election, is not a passionate place. The kids' homework comes first. Passion exists on the wings of both parties. This means that in the primaries, only two types of candidates win. One is the extremely well funded — and the passion of the wings make funding for them even more important. The other is the ideologically committed. The top fundraisers face the most passionate voters, and the contest is whether the center can be turned out with money. Frequently the answer is no. The result is that the wings, although likely a minority in the party, frequently select candidates in the primary who have trouble winning the general election. From their point of view, winning means nothing if you give up principles.

All of this applies equally to elections to the House and Senate. It has been said that there has never been less bipartisanship than there is now. I don't know if that is true, but it is certainly the case that the penalties for collaboration with the other party, or for moving to the center, are extremely high. The only ones who can do it are the ones who can raise sufficient money to draw the center out. And that is hard to do. As a result, everyone must run to the extreme in the primary and run to the center in the general election. The reforms have institutionalized hypocrisy and outsized strength for marginal groups, though they succeeded in breaking the party bosses.

Since 1972, the United States has elected presidents like Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I will leave it to the reader to determine how this compares to the boss-generated leaders. However, I would argue that the ombudsman system has broken down. Bosses, because they were corrupt, could provide an interface for voters with employers (who wanted contracts) and government. I suspect that the collapse of the boss system made it easier for the Italians, Irish and Jews to integrate into society, and harder for blacks and Hispanics. There are pockets of bosses, but they are not the norm, and they cannot offer as much without going to jail.

This is not meant to romanticize the bosses. We are, on the whole, better off without them, and we can't resurrect them. I am trying to explain why our elections have become so long, why they cost so much money, and why the wings of the parties get to define agendas and legislative and executive behavior.
The Geopolitics of the U.S. Elections

There is a geopolitical side to this as well. The internal political process of the leading global power is always a geopolitical matter. The structure and method whereby leaders are selected shape the kinds of leaders who govern and define, to some extent, the constraints placed on governments. Geopolitics, as Stratfor uses the concept, argues that the wishes and idiosyncrasies of individual leaders make little difference in the long run. This is because leaders are constrained by global realities. It is also because internal political processes define what must be done to take and hold power. Those internal political processes have their own origins in impersonal forces.

There has been a long struggle between the founders' vision of how politics should work and the reality of the process. The party boss was, in a weird way, an implementation of the principle of representative government. He was also a symbol of corruption and anti-democratic behavior. His demise has created the primary system, which carries with it its own corruption. Moreover, it has systematically limited the power of the center and strengthened the power of the most ideological. It has also caused U.S. elections to put the world ill at ease, because what the world hears in the Georgia, Vermont or Texas primaries can be unsettling. The American Republic was invented and it is continually being reinvented on the same basic theme. Each reform creates a new form of corruption and a new challenge for governance. In the end, everyone is trapped by reality, but it is taking longer and longer to enter that trap.

This situation is not unique to the United States, but the pattern differs elsewhere. Over the centuries, the U.S. public has been shaped by immigration, and the U.S. government was consciously constructed out of the theoretical constructs of its founders. It was as if the country were a blank slate. It was in this context that waves of reform took place, all changing the republic, all with unintended consequences.

I have tried to show here the unintended consequences of the post-Watergate reforms to illustrate why the American political system works as it does. But perhaps the most important point is that redrawing the government is endemic to the kind of government the United States has, and that the United States both absorbs change well and is frequently surprised by what change does. In other countries, there is less room to maneuver, and perhaps fewer surprises and standards of success. The political parties emerged against the founders' intentions, because political organization beyond the elite followed from the logic of the government. The rise of political bosses followed from the system, and simultaneously stabilized and corrupted it. The post-Watergate reforms changed the nature of the corruption but also changed the texture of political life. The latter is the issue with which the United States is now struggling.

China, Russia and Europe are all struggling, but in different ways and toward different ends, frequently because of problems endemic to their cultures. The problem endemic in American culture is the will to reform. It is both the virtue and vice of the U.S. government. It has geopolitical consequences. This is another dimension of geopolitics to be considered in the coming weeks and months.
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Nuclear Deterrence is Relevant Again on: March 15, 2015, 10:38:36 AM
 Nuclear Deterrence Is Relevant Again
Geopolitical Diary
March 13, 2015 | 01:11 GMT
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U.S. Adm. William Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, warned Congress in written testimony Thursday of the threat posed by Russian bombers and missiles. Having written yesterday about the uncertainty in Moscow surrounding the status of Russian President Vladimir Putin, we deemed it worthwhile to consider Gortney's testimony more seriously than we might under other circumstances.

Gortney wrote: "Russian heavy bombers flew more out-of-area patrols in 2014 than in any year since the Cold War. We have also witnessed improved interoperability between Russian long-range aviation and other elements of the Russian military, including air and maritime intelligence collection platforms positioned to monitor NORAD responses." The patrols help to train Russian air crews, but some are "clearly intended to underscore Moscow's global reach and communicate its displeasure with Western policies, particularly with regard to Ukraine."

"Russia is progressing toward its goal of deploying long-range, conventionally-armed cruise missiles with ever increasing stand-off launch distances on its heavy bombers, submarines and surface combatants," Gortney said. "Should these trends continue, over time NORAD will face increased risk in our ability to defend North America against Russian air, maritime, and cruise missile threats."

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

We are again focusing on the changing concerns and rhetoric of all parties. Statements such as this would have been unthinkable a few years ago. While we understand that the head of NORAD is charged with monitoring the threats — and that may distort his outlook — and while we accept that testimony to Congress involves the important matter of the budget, it is still important to take this statement seriously.

The question is how seriously? The Russians still have their nuclear capability from the Cold War. We will assume that at least some, perhaps most, of the missiles and warheads have been maintained in operational condition. In any case, the Russians retain a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile capability, and can strike the United States, with the only counter being a strike on Russia.

A Russian Foreign Ministry official reminded the world of this fact in a comment to Russian media outlet Interfax on Wednesday. Referencing Moscow's right to deploy nuclear weapons in Crimea, Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the ministry's Department on Arms Control, said, "I don't know if there are nuclear weapons there now. I don't know about any plans, but in principle Russia can do it."

It has long been taken for granted that the nuclear balance was not relevant, and indeed it hasn't been. During the Cold War, the most likely scenario for the use of nuclear weapons would have been that the Soviets would have attacked Germany, overwhelming it and moving toward the channel ports. With no conventional option for the United States in response, the United States would have lived up to its pledge to protect Europe with nuclear weapons.

There were other scenarios for nuclear war, including the spasmodic launching of all missiles in each arsenal. That was unlikely, however, because it invoked mutual assured destruction. It was never clear to us why a nuclear strike at the Soviet Union would have stopped a Soviet advance, or why it would not have triggered a spasmodic Russian strike. Indeed, it was never clear that the United States would have used nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Charles de Gaulle used to argue that the United States could not be relied on to risk American cities to protect Europe. He may well have been right.

For Russia's part, there were also discussions of using nuclear weapons to facilitate a conventional advance. Russian ground forces during the Cold War practiced intensively, and in fact still do occasionally, on operating in contaminated areas following a nuclear strike that would have severely weakened enemy positions. In such a case, of course, a conventional conflict would quickly have escalated by inviting a nuclear response from the United States.

The point of it all was that the Soviets could not be certain of what the Americans would do in response to a nuclear strike, so the U.S. nuclear threat served, along with other factors, to deter a Soviet invasion. The Russians are now concerned, rightly or wrongly, that a U.S. presence in Ukraine might threaten Russia's territorial integrity. The U.S. response — that the United States does not intend to insert massive force into Ukraine in the first place, and in the second place does not intend to invade Russia — does not soothe Russian war planners. They see the United States much as the United States sees Russia: unpredictable, ruthless and dangerous.

To assure themselves that they can deter the United States, particularly given their conventional weaknesses, they have several times publicly reminded the Americans that in engaging Russia, they are engaging a peer nuclear adversary. The various missions that Gortney has cited simply represent an extension of that capability.

We have come a long way to reach the point where Russia chooses to assert its strategic nuclear capability, and where the commander of NORAD regards this capability as a significant risk. But the point is that we have come far indeed in the past year. For the Russians, the overthrow of the government in Ukraine was a threat to their national security. What the Russians did in Ukraine is seen as a threat at least to U.S. interests.

In the old Cold War, both sides used their nuclear capability to check conventional conflicts. The Russians at this point appear to be at least calling attention to their nuclear capability. Unconnected to this, to be sure, is Putin's odd absence. In a world where nuclear threats are returning to prominence, the disappearance of one side's commander-in-chief is more worrisome than it would be at other times.
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NEVER AGAIN on: March 15, 2015, 10:27:20 AM
Remember this post:
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: March 14, 2015, 08:10:41 PM
 cry cry angry
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Denmark first Euro country to go Muslim? on: March 14, 2015, 08:10:08 PM

Daily headlines prove that Europe is bursting at the seams with Islamists attempting to establish Sharia law and homegrown terror plots. France is ablaze with radicals, ISIS threatens they will send Spain back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, and Britain is much too concerned with appeasing Muslims that they are doing away with their own citizens’ free speech.

The world is idly watching to see which European country will fall to Islamic rule, creating the first Muslim nation.

According to TMI, Muslims have already established which country will be the first to cave to Sharia:

A website claiming to be the Danish Muslim Party (DAMP) published a “press release” in English and Danish, saying that Denmark will be the first Muslim nation in Europe.

The website also stated as follows:

“[W]e can assure you that everything will be better in Muslim Denmark: No drugs, no crime, peace, and humanity – instead of drug culture, immorality, possibly human rights crimes and violence which we have now.”

“Every immigrant or Muslim in Danish jails should be released from prisons, because it is possible that there has been plotting or framing or provocation towards them – and all cases should be investigated again carefully.”

“Muslim party will be biggest party of Denmark – and it may be soon. First day after Turkey becomes EU member country – about one million 20-50 year old Muslims [may] move to Denmark, and after that Denmark [may] be a Muslim country. Be ready!”

“Danish Muslim party’s only agenda is to get Muslims into Danish politics and into the parliament, no matter what our ideas and religious or political beliefs are.”

Mathaba News Network cites that 700,000 Muslims live in Denmark, and about one-third of the Danish parliament is Muslim. With this large of a percentage of Islamists in government, Muslims are seeing their religious views established in legislature under the guise of anti-discrimination.

According to the website, riots and violence from the Muslim community is a direct response to the mistreatment of Muslims, and can be solved by integrating them into politics.

So, to keep Islamists from killing and rioting, we must put them in positions of power, and if we don’t, they will resort to destruction and violence. Does this sound like the kind of people who you would trust to lead a nation?

Denmark had better wake up to the religious revolution before their rights are stripped away from them in favor of an Islamic State.

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245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / TWo big gay fashion designers oppose gay marriage and parenting. on: March 14, 2015, 06:49:44 PM

DOLCE & GABBANA: Legendary Gay Designers Oppose Gay Marriage, Gay Parenting, Surrogacy
Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 4.46.44 PM
Posted on March 14, 2015

Uh-oh. Watch the gaystapo come in and attempt to re-educate them.

    Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, founders of the eponymous fashion house, have come out strongly against gay marriage, the notion of gay families, and the use of surrogacy to procreate.

    The billionaire pair, who used to be romantically linked, gave an interview with the Italian magazine Panorama, in which they said, “The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offspring and rented uterus. Life has a natural flow; there are things that cannot be changed.”

    They also said, “Procreation must be an act of love.”

    “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Uteri for rent, semen chosen from a catalogue,” Dolce stated.

    Gabanna said, “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Hillary seems tired on: March 14, 2015, 03:25:58 PM
Peggy Noonan
Updated March 13, 2015 6:30 p.m. ET

Maybe we’re not stuck in Scandal Land.

For a while I’ve assumed Hillary Clinton would run for her party’s nomination and be a formidable candidate in the general election. After Tuesday’s news conference I’m not so sure.

Did she seem to you a happy, hungry warrior? She couldn’t make eye contact with her questioners, and when she did she couldn’t sustain it. She looked at the ceiling and down at notes, trying, it seemed, to stick to or remember scripted arguments. She was shaky. She couldn’t fake good cheer and confidence. It is seven years since she ran for office. You could see it.

Her claims—she stayed off the State Department email system for “convenience,” she thought “it would be easier to carry just one device,” her server “contains personal communications from my husband and me”—were so transparent, so quickly disprovable. Minutes later journalists were posting earlier statements in which she said she carries two devices, and The Wall Street Journal’s report saying Bill has sent only two emails in his life.

This wasn’t high-class spin. These were not respectable dodges. They didn’t make you grudgingly tip your hat at a gift for duplicity. I could almost feel an army of oppo people of both parties saying, “You can do better than that, Hillary!”

This wasn’t the work of a national, high-grade political-response team, it was the thrown-together mess of someone who knew she was guilty of self-serving actions, who didn’t herself believe what she was saying, who didn’t think the press would swallow it, and who didn’t appear to care.

She didn’t look hungry for the battle, she looked tired of the battle.

Everyone knows what the scandal is. She didn’t want a paper trail of her decisions and actions as secretary of state. She didn’t want to be questioned about them, ever. So she didn’t join the government’s paper-trail system, in this case the State Department’s official email system, which retains and archives records. She built her own private system and got to keep complete control of everything she’d done or written. She no doubt assumed no one outside would ask and no one inside would insist—she’s Hillary, don’t mess with her.

She knew the story might blow but maybe it wouldn’t, worth the chance considering the payoff: secrecy. If what she did became public she’d deal with it then. When this week she was forced to, she stonewalled: “The server will remain private.”

Is it outrageous? Of course. Those are U.S. government documents she concealed and destroyed. The press is not covering for her and hard questions are being asked because everyone knows what the story is. It speaks of who she is and how she will govern. Everyone knows it.

She knows it too.

At the news conference she seemed like a 20th-century figure in a 21st-century world. Her critics complain it’s the 1990s returning but it isn’t, it’s only the dark side of the ’90s without the era’s peace and prosperity.

Mrs. Clinton is said to be preparing to announce her candidacy for the presidency in three to four weeks. But did that look like the news conference of a candidate about to announce? It lacked any air of confidence or certitude. For a year the press has been writing about the burgeoning Clinton Shadow Campaign. Where’s the real one?

Defenses of Mrs. Clinton were ad hoc, improvised, flat-footed. It all looks disorderly, as if no one’s in charge, no one has drawn clear lines of responsibility or authority. We hear about loyalists, intimates, allies, pals, hangers-on, Friends of Hill. People buzz around her like bees on random paths to the queen.

In 2008 Barack Obama had impressive, disciplined people around him—David Axelrod,Robert Gibbs,David Plouffe. I remember thinking at the time that they were something unusual in politics: normal. Hillary has people like David Brock, a right-wing hit man who became a left-wing hit man. Who’s he supposed to do outreach to, the other weirdos?

Is this thing really happening? Is the much-vaunted campaign coming together?

After the news conference I thought what I never expected to think: Maybe she doesn’t really want this. Maybe that’s what this incompetence is meant to be signaling.

Here I will speculate, but imagine being Hillary Clinton right now:

Her mother, the rock of her life, died in 2011. In the past years she’s had health issues. She’s tired, having worked at the highest levels of American life the past 25 years. She’s in the middle of a scandal and, being Hillary, knows that others might pop along the way.

Add this: Maybe she thought her ideological hunger, which was real, would sustain her throughout her life, and it hasn’t.

Maybe what happened to her, in part, is the homes of her Manhattan mega-donors. She’s been in the grand townhouses and Park Avenue apartments since 1992. She’d go in and be met and she saw what they had. Beauty. Ease. Fine art of a particular, modern sort, the kind that is ugly, that reminds its owners that just because they’re rich doesn’t mean they don’t understand that life is hard, painful, incoherent. It is protective, cautionary, abstract and costs $20 million a picture.

But what lives they have! Grace and comfort and they don’t have to worry about the press, they don’t have to feel on the run, they don’t have to press the flesh with nobodies.

She’d like those things! But she went into “public service” and had to live on some bum-squat-Egypt Southern governor’s salary.

She wanted what they have. They’re her friends, no more talented than she. But they went to Wall Street and are oozing in dough. She stayed in the lane she was in. And she figures she missed out on the prosperity her husband presided over.

She has her causes—women’s rights, income inequality. But she can advance them in other ways.

Maybe she isn’t really hungry enough for the presidency anymore. And maybe she doesn’t have illusions anymore. She’s funded by Wall Street. Her opponent will be funded by Wall Street.

Maybe she’s of two minds about what she wants. But it’s not really hunger that’s propelling her now, its Newton’s law of inertia: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

Maybe she thinks about another line of work, a surprising fourth act. She likes to be served, be admired, be taken care of by staff. But you can get those things without being president. If you are wealthy, and she is now—and maybe that was the purpose of all those six-figure speeches—you can get those things easily.

Maybe she doesn’t, really, want to run. Maybe she’s not sure she can. Or maybe she’ll go for it: It’s what she’s been going toward all her life.

Maybe Democrats who saw that news conference will sense an opening and jump in. There’s the myth of the empty bench, but it won’t be empty if she leaves it. That’s another law of physics: Nature abhors a vacuum.

We all talk so much about the presidency and who’s got the best chance. Maybe it’s not Hillary. Maybe that’s over and no one knows, even her.
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247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Free market working its wonders on: March 14, 2015, 03:15:39 PM

Erin Ailworth and
Benoît Faucon
March 13, 2015 7:21 p.m. ET

The ocean of oil from U.S. shale drove crude prices back toward six-year lows Friday, and American energy companies say they are poised to unleash a further flood that would keep prices from returning to lofty levels for a long time.

The International Energy Agency reinforced the prospect of a prolonged slump in energy prices Friday, saying U.S. oil output was surprisingly strong in February and rapidly filling all available storage tanks. The Paris-based energy watchdog said this could lead to another sharp drop in crude prices, which fell by about 50% late last year.

The report sent oil prices tumbling around the world, with the global benchmark Brent crude falling $2.41 to $54.67 a barrel. The U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate lost $2.21 to settle at $44.84, less than 40 cents above a six-year low it reached in late January. Last summer, both traded well above $100.

It was only last month that the IEA said a price recovery seemed inevitable because the U.S. production boom was likely to cool. Instead, “U.S. supply so far shows precious little sign of slowing down,” the agency said Friday. “Quite to the contrary, it continues to defy expectations.”

Independent shale-oil producers have slashed their planned 2015 spending on drilling by $50 billion, compared with last year’s, but have promised to increase production by focusing on their best oil fields. Total U.S. crude oil production hit a high of 9.4 million barrels a day in the week ended March 6, according to federal data.

Now many are adopting a new strategy that will allow them to pump even more crude as soon as oil prices begin to rise. They are drilling wells but holding off on hydraulic fracturing, or forcing in water and chemicals to free oil from shale formations. The delay in the start of fracking lets companies store oil in the ground in a way that enables them to tap it unusually quickly if they wish—and flood the market again.

This strategy could put a cap on how high oil prices can rise once they are recovering, said Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup Inc.

“We’re in slightly unexplored territory,” Mr. Morse said. “It’s an experiment—a big, big experiment.”

EOG Resources Inc., an oil producer based in Texas, is drilling about 285 wells that it won’t start finishing off until crude oil’s price rebounds to between $60 and $65 a barrel.

“When oil prices recover, EOG will be prepared to resume strong double-digit oil growth,” Chief Executive Bill Thomas said recently.

Some other big names in U.S. energy also are delaying well completions, among them Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Apache Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Continental Resources Inc. These four plus EOG pumped 312 million barrels of oil in the U.S. in 2014, or almost 10% of American crude production.

The number of wells in Texas and North Dakota that have been drilled but aren’t yet pumping is at least 3,000, RBC Capital Markets estimates. That oil still in the ground “provides a war chest that could temper fundamental price spikes in the coming year,” RBC analyst Scott Hanold wrote in a Friday note.

This essentially is more U.S. crude in storage, akin to that in the tanks now brimming. The U.S. has 449 million barrels of oil sloshing around in tanks, the highest level on record and almost 70% of capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Even so, Jim Krane, an energy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, questioned whether U.S. producers would be able to adjust oil production as quickly as, for instance, Saudi Arabia has proved able to do in the past. “We’ll probably have more price volatility because even as nimble as shale is, it’s not as nimble as OPEC,” he said. The shale producers “can’t just go out and turn a valve.”

It isn’t as though the price plunge hasn’t affected production.

The number of oil rigs drilling in the U.S. declined by 56 this week to 866, a 46% drop since early October when oil was traded for about $90 a barrel, according to oilfield-service company Baker Hughes Inc. Some production cutbacks are starting to materialize.

North Dakota regulators said Thursday the state’s oil output declined 3% in January from the record level reached in December.

Market observers have been waiting for U.S. shale production to cool down since November, when Saudi Arabia said it would keep pumping oil at high levels to preserve its own customer base. Some members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said at the time that the move would force American producers to cut pumping because their oil is relatively expensive to produce.

U.S. companies aren’t necessarily looking to fill OPEC’s shoes as the so-called swing producer that can adjust production to help set price levels.

For many, delaying oil production from drilled wells is a financial decision; finishing off a well and putting it into service accounts for 60% of the well’s total price.

By pushing off that expense, companies hope they can earn more from higher oil prices once they finally do pump and sell their crude. They also are expecting their costs will fall as oilfield-service providers vie for their business.

Harold Hamm, chief executive of Continental Resources Inc., a producer in North Dakota, has urged peers to hold off on completing as many wells as possible.

Continental is waiting to hook up 127 already-drilled wells, postponing up to $1 million in spending apiece.

“Save that money,” Mr. Hamm said recently.

“Avoid selling that production in this poor market and wait for service costs to fall before completing those wells. Most people are doing that,” he said.

Write to Erin Ailworth at
248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 5X Dems undercut Rep prezs with foreign govts. on: March 14, 2015, 01:01:10 PM
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249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Innis v. Sharpton on: March 14, 2015, 12:39:35 PM
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 28 years later, Tawana Brawley finally starts paying up on: March 14, 2015, 12:37:42 PM

Twenty-five years after accusing an innocent man of rape, Tawana Brawley is finally paying for her lies.

Last week, 10 checks totaling $3,764.61 were delivered to ex-prosecutor Steven Pagones — the first payments Brawley has made since a court determined in 1998 that she defamed him with her vicious hoax.

A Virginia court this year ordered the money garnisheed from six months of Brawley’s wages as a nurse there.

She still owes Pagones $431,000 in damages. And she remains defiantly unapologetic.

“It’s a long time coming,” said Pagones, 52, who to this day is more interested in extracting a confession from Brawley than cash.

“Every week, she’ll think of me,” he told The Post. “And every week, she can think about how she has a way out — she can simply tell the truth.”

Brawley’s advisers in the infamous race-baiting case — the Rev. Al Sharpton, and attorneys C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox — have already paid, or are paying, their defamation debt. But Brawley, 41, had eluded punishment.

She’s now forced to pay Pagones $627 each month, possibly for the rest of her life. Under Virginia law, she can appeal the wage garnishment every six months.

“Finally, she’s paying something,” said Pagones’ attorney, Gary Bolnick. “Symbolically, I think it’s very important — you can’t just do this stuff without consequences.”

Pagones filed for the garnishment with the circuit court in Surry County, Va., in January, a few weeks after The Post tracked down Brawley to tiny Hopewell, Va.

Before The Post came knocking, not even her own co-workers knew she was the teen behind the spectacular 1987 case.

“I don’t want to talk to anyone about that,” Brawley growled after a Post reporter confronted her about her sordid past in December.

Employing aliases including Tawana Thompson and Tawana Gutierrez, she leads a relatively normal life by all appearances, residing in a neat brick apartment complex and working as a licensed practical nurse at The Laurels of Bon Air in Richmond.

She’s also raising a daughter, a neighbor said.

Brawley was spotted one morning emerging from her house with a young girl and a man dressed in hospital scrubs.

They left in separate cars — Brawley in a Chrysler Sebring and the man and child in a Ford Taurus. Brawley arrived at work about 30 minutes later, and the man pulled into the same lot minutes afterward.

Her current life is a far cry from the one she fled in upstate Wappingers Falls, NY.

She was only 15 when she claimed she was the victim of a crime whose shocking brutality sparked a national outrage and stoked racial tensions.

The two-decade-long saga that nearly ruined Pagones’ life and career began on Nov. 28, 1987, when Brawley was found in a trash bag, with the words “n—-r” and “b—h” scrawled on her body in feces.

In her first meetings with police, the teenager responded to questions with blank expressions, nods and by scrawling notes. She said she had been abducted by two white men, who dragged her into the woods where four other white men were waiting.

But Brawley, a cheerleader, didn’t offer much detail. She didn’t give police names or detailed descriptions of the men she claimed had brutalized her almost nonstop for four days.

What she did share — that one attacker had blond hair, a holster and a badge — sparked a media firestorm in New York City, which was still reeling from the killing of a black youth in Howard Beach, Queens, by a white mob.

Firebrands Maddox and Mason and a relatively unknown Sharpton jumped into the fray. Within weeks, a suspect emerged — Fishkill Police Officer Harry Crist Jr., who had been found dead in his apartment three days after the Brawley “attack.”

But Pagones, a Dutchess County prosecutor at the time, defended his dead friend Crist, offering an alibi for the cop — they were Christmas-shopping together on one of the days in question. And on the three other days of the “kidnapping,” Crist was on patrol, working at his other job at IBM, and installing insulation in an attic.

Brawley’s handlers then claimed — without proof — that Pagones was part of the white mob that kidnapped and raped the girl 33 times.

Celebrities lined up to support Tawana, including Bill Cosby, who posted a $25,000 reward for information on the case; Don King, who promised $100,000 for Brawley’s education; and Spike Lee, who in his 1989 film, “Do the Right Thing,” included a shot of a graffiti message reading, “Tawana told the truth.”

A grand jury reached a different conclusion. The jurors, who heard from 180 witnesses over seven months, concluded in 1988 that the entire story was a hoax.

They determined Brawley had run away from home and concocted the story — most likely to avoid punishment from her stepfather, Ralph King, who had spent seven years in prison in the 1970s for killing his first wife.

Crist’s suicide was unrelated; he killed himself over a failed romance.

“It is probable that in the history of this state, never has a teenager turned the prosecutorial and judicial systems literally upside-down with such false claims,” state Supreme Court Justice S. Barrett Hickman wrote at the time.

For Pagones, the damage was done. His marriage unraveled, and he ended up leaving his job as a prosecutor. He continued to proclaim his innocence, making it his life’s mission to bring Brawley and her advisers to justice — and compel them to tell the truth.

In 1998, he won his defamation lawsuit. Maddox was found liable for $97,000, Mason for $188,000, and Sharpton for $66,000 — money that was paid by celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran and other benefactors.

Sharpton, now a national figure, has never apologized for his role in the hoax. Mason, an ordained minister who hasn’t practiced law since being disbarred in 1995, has remained mostly silent.

But Maddox, whose law license was suspended in 1990, continues the drumbeat for Brawley. He even tried to petition the Surry County court to halt the garnishment of Brawley’s wages.

He maintained that in New York, where the defamation case took place, two sets of laws apply.

“The common law applies to whites. The slave code still applies to blacks,” he said.

In a July 22 legal brief signed by Brawley and submitted by Maddox, Brawley contends she wouldn’t submit herself to the court’s jurisdiction because an appearance in the court, “which inferentially sympathizes with the Confederate States of America, would be contrary to the US Constitution and would amount to a ‘badge of slavery.’ ”

Brawley did not return messages seeking comment.

Pagones is still licensed to practice law but is now a principal at a New York-based private-investigation firm. He has remarried, has three daughters and a son, and lives in Dutchess County.

Brawley was ordered in 1998 to fork over $190,000 at 9 percent annual interest. She now owes a total of about $431,492 — a sum she could be paying for the rest of her life.

Or maybe not.

Pagones said he’d forgive the debt if Brawley admits the truth.

“I’m willing to consider anything,” he said.
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